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New Hampshire Lawmakers Abolished the Death Penalty. The Governor Isn't Happy.

“I am incredibly disappointed that the Senate chose to override my veto," Gov. Chris Sununu said.

by Emma Ockerman
May 30 2019, 6:29pm

New Hampshire lawmakers just defied their own governor and voted to abolish capital punishment.

The state Senate passed a bill Thursday afternoon to override Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s previous veto on abolishing the death penalty. Lawmakers secured 16 votes in favor of the bill — exactly the number they needed to go around the governor. Under the new law, people found guilty of capital murder offenses will now face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

But it wasn’t easy for New Hampshire to get to this point. The state had long struggled to pass a bill banning the death penalty. When legislators finally did so narrowly last year, Sununu vetoed it and said the bill was a detriment to law enforcement in the state. In September, the state Senate was just two votes shy of the 16 votes needed to override that veto. Death penalty opponents in the state Senate only ginned up enough support to withstand a gubenetorial veto in April.

It’s safe to say Sununu isn’t happy about that.

“I have consistently stood with law enforcement, families of crime victims, and advocates for justice in opposing a repeal of the death penalty because it is the right thing to do,” Sununu said in a statement after Thursday’s vote, according to the Concord Monitor. “I am incredibly disappointed that the Senate chose to override my veto."

The Granite State is the 21st state in the nation to strike down the death penalty, and the bill passed Thursday ensures all of New England is without capital punishment. But New Hampshire hasn’t executed someone since 1939 and has just one person currently on death row: Michael Addison, who was sentenced to death for killing a police officer.

The law won’t retroactively apply to him, but the state doesn’t have the materials or facility necessary to even carry out an execution, according to the Concord Monitor. There’s a shortage of lethal injection drugs nationwide, in part because drug companies are reluctant to supply the drugs if they know they’re being used to kill someone.

One Republican who backed the bill, Sen. Harold French, still said there was a moral reason to formally stand against the death penalty.

"As I get older, I realized for a fact we're actually all on death row and it's just a matter of time before our names get called," French told reporters.

Cover image: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu speaks during an interview during the National Governors Association 2019 winter meeting in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)